Army gave Congress bad data on suicides

Sept. 7, 2004 at 8:05 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army has admitted giving Congress incorrect information about suicides and a controversial malaria drug in Iraq last year, UPI reports.

The Army's top medical official testified in February no more than four of the deceased soldiers could have taken Lariam, which the Food and Drug Administration says can cause mental problems. But the Army now says that number may be as high as 11 -- nearly half the total number of suicides the Army says occurred in Iraq during 2003.

The Army says it stopped using Lariam, also called mefloquine, in Iraq at the end of 2003. Since then, the suicide rate among soldiers has fallen by more than half, Army officials also confirmed. They cited better Army suicide prevention efforts for the decline.

Army officers say making any connection between the suicides and Lariam would be "a great disservice to our soldiers and the general public."

In a written statement to United Press International, the Army says "more current information" shows the number of soldiers in units taking Lariam was 11 out of 24. Eight of those 11 soldiers were in units where Lariam was the preferred anti-malaria drug, and three in units where either Lariam or a common antibiotic drug was prescribed.

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